A Caribbean Soul: Lesser Antilles (Leeward Islands)

The Leeward Islands are the Lesser Antilles closest to Florida and Jimmy’s heart, and most plentiful in his lyrics. Sailing roughly north and west, we hear about…

View Leeward Islands in a larger map


In “Fins” (from the 1979 album Volcano), Jimmy tells the story of a woman who:

Sailed off to Antigua.
It took her three days on a boat.
Lookin’ for some peace and quiet;
Maybe keep her dreams afloat.


Wants to head south in May;
Maybe roll in the sand with a rock’n’roll man,
Somewhere down Montserrat way.

So what drew this mysterious woman to these places? Antigua has a high rocky coast, indented by many bays and arms of the sea (perfect for harbors). The land is relatively flat compared to other Caribbean islands, but there are some hills in the southwest. The country was under British control until 1981; now it is independent.

But what about Montserrat? After all, that’s where the album Volcano was recorded, at the then-new Air Studios, owned by Beatles producer George Martin. (The Rolling Stones, the Police, Elton John and many others later traveled there to record.) Since Volcano was released, Montserrat has suffered greatly. Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, after which AIR Studios closed.

An active volcano, the Soufrière Hills, erupted for the first time in many years in 1995, and eruptions have continued ever since. Lava flow has rendered much of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroying the capital city of Plymouth, as well as the airport, and forcing about two-thirds of the population off the island. George Martin organized a fundraiser (Music for Montserrat) in 1997, which included native band Arrow of “Hot, Hot, Hot” fame, as well as Jimmy, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Sting and many others. But Montserrat’s tourist industry was destroyed and only recently is coming back; trips to the volcano itself have also started. Oh, and a new airport opened in 2005.

Given the volcanic destruction on Montserrat, it’s not surprising that in the version on the 1999 album “Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays”, the woman and her rock’n’roll man have moved to St. Barts, a much more hospitable island with an extinct volcano and many expensive yachts.

A few years later we hear of the amazing times Jimmy had at a wild club in St. Barts, “Autour du Rocher” (from the album “Far Side of the World”)

It was better than a painting
At le Musee de Beaux Arts
And simply what we did for fun
Back in the old St. Barts.
But Then the glitz and all the glamour
Hit like a hurricane,
Or maybe we just all grew up
But it never was the same.

Sadly for those of us who never made it there, it was shut down and later a victim of fire.


In 1995’s “The Night I Painted the Sky” (from the album “Barometer Soup”), Jimmy sings about helping his friends set of fireworks:

I came from the north
Escaping convention,
Modern invention
That won’t let me be.
To the shores of St. Martin
With my fiction addiction
To restart the fire
A dreamer’s remedy.

Independence day
And all I remember
Was a midnight rainbow
That fell from the sky.
As I stand on the beach
I slowly surrender
To the child in me
That can’t say goodbye.

You say Saint Martin and I say Sint Maarten…That’s because this 38-square-mile island is divided roughly in half between France and the Netherlands, making it one of the smallest inhabited landmasses in the world divided between two nations. The Dutch half (to the south) is Sint Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles. The French (northern) half is Saint Martin and is part of Guadeloupe.

Sint Maarten’s currency is the Antillean guilder, while Saint Martin’s is the Euro. The U.S. dollar is also widely accepted in both areas.

Either way, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking to escape convention. Sint Maarten is known for great beaches, nightlife and casinos, while Saint Martin has world-famous nude beaches, rich French Caribbean cuisine and plenty of shopping.


Powdery white-sand beaches, lush green mountains, and a sheltered yacht-filled harbor characterize the island of Tortola, the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands. Manmade features include old ruins and a rum distillery. Sage Mountain National Park still has traces of the primeval rain forest at higher elevations. Tortola is also an ideal point from which to explore the other British Virgin Islands.

One of the many gorgeous, protected anchorages that are ideal for boaters is Cane Garden Bay, so it’s no surprise that Jimmy sings about it in Mañana (from the album “Son of a Son of a Sailor”):

But women and water are in short supply
There’s not enough dope for us all to get high.
I hear it gets better, that’s what they say
As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay.

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

Thus ends our tour of the Lesser Antilles that started in the Leeward Antilles, sailed through the Windward Islands, and ended up here in the Leeward Islands. Jimmy most certainly has a “Caribbean soul (he) can barely control.”

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